While most remembered for her work with 80’s girl rockers the Bangles, Susanna Hoffs has always been a child of the 60’s. Not the 60’s of The Doors, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix, but the 60’s of Simon & Garfunkel, Burt Bacharach and Peter, Paul & Mary. Hoffs’ latest solo effort Someday marks a clear return to her roots.
In the years since the Bangles broke up, one could make the argument that Susanna Hoffs has been trying to find herself musically. Her solo albums have been met with mixed reviews, her cover albums with Matthew Sweet got a little more attention (but not much), and even the Bangles reunited hasn’t come close to the acclaim Hoffs was used to in the band’s heyday.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Susanna Hoffs (now 53) is a remarkable musician, with a little-girl voice that belies her age. She just needed the right vehicle for her talent.
With Someday, I think she found it. Teaming up with Nashville’s Andrew Brassell, Hoffs has co-written a collection of original tunes that resonate with all the singability of 60’s folk/pop—and producer Mitchell Froom has helped to place these songs in a garden of strings and horns that sound like they came right out of Bacharach’s orchestra. It’s vintage 60’s pop brought into the modern day.
Certainly there will be those who pass this off as a “retro” album, following after current trends to revive and revisit the sounds of the past (think Alabama Shakes, Carolina Chocolate Drops). But I don’t see this as a time-warp album; I see it as a testament to the timelessness of good melody. It might sound like a decades-old musical style (one that would simply have been laughed at in the 80s), but it is apparent by the way things fit together that Susanna Hoffs’ voice belongs here. This is a style that fits her like a well-tailored piece of clothing, and she wears it with grace and dignity. I honestly don’t think there’s another style that is more suited to these songs.
And here’s another remarkable thing about Someday; it doesn’t feel forced or stressed. Unlike others of her recordings, Hoffs doesn’t sound like a singer from another era trying to reclaim something she lost. She sounds relaxed, at rest, comfortable. In short, she sounds like she has found herself. As a result, the album plays sort of like a long, relieved exhale.
Which brings up an important point and a caution: if you’re into angst-driven music, you won’t like this record. This is easy listening, in practically every sense. This is a walk in a garden, fragrant and peaceful—not a rant at the world (or a romp in the hay). But that being said, Someday is exactly what it is supposed to be. As the album cover suggests, with this album, Hoffs is finding sunshine at the end of the rain. Those kinds of moments are as legitimate as the angst-ridden ones, so let her have her moment, and enjoy it with her.
I’m not going to suggest here that Susanna Hoffs should stick to 60’s lite-pop from here on out—she may have more great stuff up her sleeve. But I am saying that this album is a perfect fit for a child of the 60’s. This may not be a record for the charts, but it is the album Susanna Hoffs needed to make—and certainly some of her best work so far.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 Stars (out of five)